Roman Around

combating liberalism and other childish notions

NAME GAME

Posted by Andrew Roman on November 30, 2008

What was it about Greta Gustaffson that captivated so many? And exactly how many young men would you guess spent an inordinate amount of adolescent “alone time” staring at pictures at Jo Tejada?

(Yes, this is a lame set-up on my part).

Now substitute the names Gustaffson and Tejada for Greta Garbo and Raquel Welch, and your ability to answer becomes easier.

Stage names.

Yes, it was a common practice to Americanize your name at one time.

Gustaffson

Gustaffson

Just like David Kaminsky, Muzyad Yakhoob, Henry John Deutschendorf Jr, Anna Maria Italiano and Alphonso D’Abruzzo did … along with many, many others. Some were born here, some weren’t – but they all had a common thread. They all wanted their identities to be decidedly American.

Millions of immigrants to this country did the same thing when they arrived – as did my own predecessors.

It was called assimilation.

Associated Press writer Deepti Hajela says that having a President with such an unusual name like Barack Hussein Obama (remember, he used to go by Barry once upon a time) changes, what she calls, the “name game.”

Names traditionally considered “American” tend to be “British-sounding stuff,” said Cleveland Evans, professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Nebraska. “We are still basically an English-culture country. We really are still in many ways at our base an Anglo-Saxon culture.”

In truth, Mr. Evans, we are a free-religion, Judeo-Christian value-based, English-culture country – the most accommodating, least racist nation in all the world – but I digress.

He (Cleveland Evans) pointed out that immigrants have long had a history of changing their names to fit in more with the United States, or have even had others change it for them.

And there wasn’t a damn thing wrong with that.

Immigrants to the United States were deliberately making the effort to “fit in.”

In school they used to teach the phrase E Pluribus Unum? Remember that one? Quaint, I know … but I like it.

Obama, born in Hawaii and named after his Kenyan father, went by Barry for some years before deciding to use his full first name.

Electing someone named Barack Obama president reflects a shift in attitudes about names that’s been going on in American society for the past few decades, says Laura Wattenberg, a name expert and author who runs the blog The Baby Name Wizard.

Wait.

(Reading that last line over a few times).

Electing Obama reflected a shift in attitudes about names? What on earth does that mean? His name was part of his appeal then?

So, America is finally starting to throw off the century-old first-name shackles of “John,” “Jim,” and “Tom” for more non-American sounding names?

And this “unshackling” of the stale Anglo baby-name pool for a more internationally flavored one is a plus? (I’m just trying to understand the thinking here).

Okay, maybe I’m all wet about this.

Fact is … Obama’s name could have been “Saline Solution,” and he would have won.

“As a group, American parents are naming much more creatively and are striving to be distinctive with the names they pick,” she said, pointing out that shift started in the 1960s when Obama was born and has only accelerated in the last 25 years or so.

A president named Obama could break down the perception “that there is such a thing as a ‘normal’ name,” said Wattenberg.

“It’s a powerful symbol of breaking down barriers where it wasn’t that long ago where kids with a non-English name would go to school and teachers would routinely change it. The president having a non-English name is a sign that we’re not squeezing everyone into that box,” she said.

Here we go again – more sub-groups of Americans breaking out of “boxes.”

Sometimes, to read about this country from Leftocrats, you’d have to believe we come in just under Nazi Germany, toothaches and painful rectal itch in terms of goodness.

I’m sorry, there is such a thing as a normal name, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Please don’t misunderstand my point.

Tejada

Tejada

I am not saying that naming a child something unusual and unique is a bad thing, or shouldn’t be done. I certainly don’t want jackbooted nomenclature squads taking to maternity wards across the map making sure Anglo-sounding names are committed to birth certificates.

Rather, I despair at the slow erosion of my nation’s culture.

Wishing to Americanize one’s name spoke volumes about the desire to become part of the already existing fabric – a place so desired by people from every corner of the world that they were willing to abandon the lives they knew for the opportunity to become an American. It was as patriotic a gesture as any.

It was beautiful.

If there has been any “shift” in recent decades, it is the desire not to celebrate the American ideals and values that have served to unify people from diverse backgrounds the world over. (Again, think E Pluribus Unum here – Out of Many, One). It is, rather, the celebration – and amplification – of that diversity, i.e., multiculturalism, that is emphasized in place of the American ideal. 

I’m certain to get some e-mails saying things like, “What’s with you, Roman? What are you saying? You want everyone named Michael? Or Jennifer? You idiot!

Nope.

Not at all.

Rather, it is commentary on the bigger issue of the slow disintegration of an explicit American culture – one I happen to revere very much.

I like the “box” we have here.

By the way … Danny Kaye, Danny Thomas, John Denver, Anne Bancroft and Alan Alda.

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2 Responses to “NAME GAME”

  1. cool site showing name ranking over the years –
    http://www.babynamewizard.com/voyager

  2. This was a very interesting post to read, and I clicked on it when I saw a picture of one of my favorite actresses, Greta Garbo.
    However, I must say one thing. Garbo, et al had no choice in the matter when it came to “Americanizing” their names. Her studio forced her to do this to appear in movies. She certainly did not desire to “integrate into the great melting pot” after her career! She was very proud of Sweden, and is buried there.
    To compare Studio era actors who were forced to change their names in order to appear less “ethnic” to the current President is quite a leap. Garbo’s era is over one hundred years old. It shows we still have to evolve if the President used to call himself “Barry” (which I did not know!). However, since his last name is Obama it could be as innocent as wanting to make his name roll off the tongue more easily.
    But Obama never changed his last name. The Studio system and hopefully this homogenized mindset that lingers from it will evaporate more every day.

    Bette Dillinger

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